Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Barren Tree

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. ~ 2 Peter 1:8–9
(read the previous verses for traits Christians ought to possess)

As I was reading over a passage today my mind was brought to these two trees in my backyard, specifically the nasty, dead, scraggly looking one.  They both started from, amazingly enough, filler that came with a dozen roses I gave my wife for Valentines Day 7 years ago.  She nursed them in water in the windowsill for months before they were stable enough to go in the ground and to our amazement they both grew from a throwaway vase size to these great bushy trees that provide screen and shade in our yard.

That is until last Fall when I started to notice the scraggly tree begin to show signs of stress.  Branches began growing dark and black yet green leaves were beyond the darkness.  Well, up until last week I allowed this eyesore of a living tree to live in my yard with all its dead branches that once housed healthy green leaves and vibrant branches. I instructed my children to cut all dead branches off and leave what little life there was on it, in one last act of hope that it would survive and become great again.  We still have a bit of cutting to go.  It may be painful but it's necessary.

    “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.  “And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’

          “And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’ ” ~ Luke 13:6–9

The clear picture of the professing Christian man is found in these two trees.  The one that is on life support has been shown grace in that it was not entirely uprooted and burned.  It has been granted grace and more time to bear fruit.  Has the Sovereign King, Jesus Christ, granted grace towards you in that He did not cut you down previous to this day?  Do you realize your sins of yesterday were great enough for Him to take your breathe away in your sleep? Do you grasp the infinite, abounding grace that has been richly supplied to you by His hand withholding death from your very door?

Will you at this moment bow your knee and confess your sin, turn away from your sin, and humbly follow Him?  

He is willing to extend grace greater than all your sin, if you would but confess and forsake.

I am quite embarrassed that such a hideous object that claims to be a tree is on my property.  It is indeed an eyesore.  How much more so the man or woman who professes faith in Christ and yet is barren and unfruitful, having forgotten the former sins he/she was purified from?  How much more so the professing man/woman who bears no fruit because they are not a part of the Vine but are mere impostors just idly waiting to be revealed as fakes?

I will water this wretched "tree" and expend time and effort on it in hopes that it will come back to full life, thereby granting it grace.  Yet given enough time and a continual lack of green leaves and more deadness it will be eventually cut down and warm my house this winter or be left at the trash heap we call our city dump.

So the burning question is,

What kind of tree are you?  

And if you are like this barren tree, how long will a gracious God bear with you?

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grace Abused

GRACE. We hear the word. We sing of its amazingness. We speak of its fullness and its riches. Yes, it is a beautiful word. But how often do you stop to ponder its depth? If you stop to think about it, the word has been at the heart of countless debates and it has undergone attack after attack from those who wish to use it to cater to their own ideas. Why?

First, we need to understand what grace is. We’ve all heard of people trying to get in someone’s good graces. When it comes to God, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Grace is not something we can earn nor is it something we can ever work toward. Scripture makes it clear that God decides to whom He will be gracious and show compassion (Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:15). Does this
mean people should fear for their life? Should we all live in terror at the thought of our destruction looming over us with nothing we can do about it? To this I would say yes and no. Yes, it is true that our very existence is held in God’s hands. He could easily destroy the entire earth as you are reading this. Job understood that it is the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away (Job 1:21). While it is true that he feared the Lord, it was a reverent fear and not a fear based in terror or dread. Whereas he understood His awesome power and might, he also understood that his God is a gracious God who is full of compassion (Nehemiah 9:31). So again I say to fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28) but always remember that God is with us and He will strengthen us (Isaiah 41:10). He is our help in time of need (Psalm 46:1).

Many have tried to twist grace in various ways throughout history. Some have stated that there is a prevenient grace that God has applied to all without exception. Their reasoning for this ultimately boils down to the idea that God desires the salvation of each individual person. In an effort to maintain the doctrine of the fall of man, they state that God gives a measure of grace to each person so that they now possess the ability to choose God of their own free will. Unfortunately, this goes against the very teaching of man’s depravity and deadness in sin. Not to mention it’s found nowhere in Scripture. Furthermore, if God truly showed grace to each and every person, how is there still room to be gracious to whom He will be gracious? The response is that there are varying degrees of grace. I can’t argue this point. After all, Scripture does show examples of God being extraordinarily gracious to some more so than others. However, when referring to salvation, we simply cannot make a solid case for this claim. God will be gracious to whom He will be gracious and He will show compassion to whom He will show compassion. However, we must always remember that God is good and worthy of our praise.

Another way in which grace has come under attack is in the form of abuse. There are many out there who readily see grace as inexhaustible yet seem to be making every attempt to tap the bottom of the barrel. They say salvation is the free gift of God that is given by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8). They say nobody can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28-29). While these two statements are very profound and very biblical, we must be careful not to cross into the realm of hyper grace. Such people come in varying degrees ranging from those who believe they can live like the devil to those who claim nothing they do really matters. After all, if God is sovereign and His grace is sufficiently given out to all whom He decrees to give it to, can our actions really affect anything? Thankfully, just as God’s Word is clear on the nature of grace, it is equally clear on how we are to live with grace. Paul battled much of the same assaults in his day. There is truly nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Just as there are now, there were then people claiming they could sin with no ill effects so long as they were covered by grace. Unfortunately, they were missing the entire point! Paul states it plainly when he says, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” (Romans 6:1-2a).

We are to cherish the biblical teachings of grace, not because we are to abuse it but because it should humble us. Romans 5:6 tells us Christ died for those who were helpless. In verse 8, it goes on to say that God demonstrated His love toward us. He graciously gave his Son as the atoning sacrifice for those whom He chose to show compassion. Let us never forget this. Apart from the perfect work of Christ, his death on the cross, and his defeat of death in the resurrection, there is no newness of life. Apart from God’s grace in orchestrating this act of mercy, there is nothing but death. However, in His grace, He lavishes His love upon us that we could be called sons of God (1 John 3:1). Why would we ever desire to abuse such a gift?

Romans 6:5-7
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Driscoll's Deception

    An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. ~ 1 Timothy 3:2–3

Well, it happened again.  Mark Driscoll's name popped up in the news again and as usual it wasn't accompanied with the smell of roses.  It smelled of something else.  So as people do, they posted the story and then the Driscoll zombies came out.  They commented on these posts with their usual blind defense of his actions.  I decided to lay low and fly quietly under the radar as it all unfolded on a brother's wall.  After about 60 comments and perhaps 35 turning of the eyes at the character traits of this wayward "shepherd" I decided to chronicle a small list that reveals the utter folly of defending such a "shepherd."

What is typically neglected is the pattern of his life. What is always trumped up as a defense is that none is without sin, none are perfect. However, this defense flies in the face of scripture that the true shepherd of God's sheep, God's flock, is not called to be perfect but he is clearly commanded to be of such a high character so as to come before the presence of the Holy One and be gifted to proclaim the excellencies of His name.  The office of elder is no little office nor some place where boys come and play.  It is as one true shepherd says, "serious business."

So here is a short list of why a man like Driscoll should not be anywhere near a pulpit.  For when a man is immature how in the world can he 

proclaim (Christ), warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that (he) may present everyone mature in Christ. ~ Colossians 1:28

So here a few things that are quite revealing of such a "shepherd."
  • The man has plagiarized (ie. stolen) another's work and attributed it to himself.  When called on it he claimed he did not know and/or his editors didn't catch it.  Blame shifting.  He's not stupid as he claimed ignorance/deflected blame.  He knows a thing or two about the English language and writing.

  • The man just happened "to be in the area" when he dropped in on Strange Fire in L.A. in October.  Grace Community Church is not on the way to Long Beach unless he drove all the way from Seattle.  He had to purposely drive north from LAX to Grace Community Church, no small feat on a weekday, and then back to Long Beach that was just 15-20 miles south of LAX.

  • He comes to pass out books at a conference knowing that book publishers have deals at conferences to promote certain approved titles. He is not ignorant of this known professional practice.  Yet he comes anyway and promotes himself.

  • He claims via Twitter that his books are confiscated so everyone can freak out and he can discredit other ministries.  The book "confiscation" is a complete farce (ie. lie) and takes place about 20 feet from me and with many trusted long time brothers who tell the truth and have video of it that nothing was taken but rather he was told not to pass them out, the common professional practice of such things at conferences.  Then he was offered help to take them back to his car.  He replies, "No, you can have them.  They're my gift."  Grace Church takes the high road and tells people with video footage (ie. evidence) not to publish it in order to calm the story down.

  • He pays to have his book kept on the top sellers list.  Enough said.

  • He then goes on Janet Medford's show and denies everything (ie. does not repent) and then comes up with an obvious and sudden cough so he can feign sickness (ie. lies) and tell her she ought to be impressed that he took the time to grace her show with his presence (ie. pride.) 

This is a short list.  The man is a proud showboating boy who exhibits no qualities to be in such an as office as elder/pastor/teacher of God's church.  A guy with these character traits and actions in the Levitical priesthood would be dead in a day for such blasphemy against God's holy standard for leaders, those that represent Christ to the flock and the world.  At best, true prophets of the like of Isaiah and Ezekiel would stand in strong opposition as they warned the people and the "prophet" to repent.

Unlike the Apostle Paul who told Timothy to imitate me as I imitate Christ, Mark Driscoll can make no such statement.  He is disqualified by his life.

Think about it and follow scripture not men!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It Flowers and Fades....and poof, It's Gone!

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. ~ James 4:14

Recently we decided to have a family movie night.  Not much for movies as the vast majority are just a wealth of filth that feeds man's lust for pleasure and his infatuation with self.  Nonetheless, off we went into screen land to catch one we had seen 14 years ago.  We went and revisited Wilson and his pal on his castaway island.  I quickly recalled what was about to transpire and fell directly into watching the entire movie as if I was in Chuck Noland's shoes.  What if?

What if it was me?  You?  Am I ready for whatever turn my life takes?  Are you ready?  It could turn any way you know.

Our lives are indeed a vapor.  They are but a moment.  Some are even briefer than a moment. I've lived long enough to bury 90 year old grandmothers and been with friends as they bury 1 year old babies and 15 year old sons.  One of my most vivid memories as a teen was burying our friend Mark at the ripe old age of 18 or 19.

         Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,
         And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight;
         Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. ~ Psalm 39:5

So back to Wilson, er Chuck.  Despite it being a fictional story I watched as a man obsessed with work made one monumental decision to board a plane and change his life and others lives forever.  Not even realizing that at that very moment 239 people were missing somewhere over the Gulf of Thailand. Could someone or many be clinging for their life?  Could 239 souls have just entered eternity and changed the course of life for thousands of family and friends?

One moment.  One choice.  One fateful trip across the ocean or just across the street.  I ask again, are you ready?  

         Man is like a mere breath;
         His days are like a passing shadow. ~ Psalm 144:4

My thoughts constantly went back to 1984/1985.  It's a blur yet crystal clear. I recall the news that Mark had wrapped his car around a tree along with a couple passengers.  Dead.  All of them.  Life cut short.  A decision to drive while intoxicated ended in horror.  I recall a sky blue day with beautiful cumulus clouds over Newport Beach CA.  I can vividly see the casket and all my young friends as we passed by Mark's casket one last time and dropped momento's in.  It was surreal.  Lives changed. Forever. While it was a grievous moment it's impact was only beginning.  Today I ask, why not me?  It could have been me!  Only by God's grace was it not.  Only by a kind and merciful Lord did I make it, did you make it.

My thoughts also went to a dear brother and the events that led to losing his son.  A move many miles away to embark on a ministry opportunity.  Only to find his young toddler face down in a small fish pond almost the day they moved into their new home.  Oh the grief, the sorrow, the doubts!  Yet God was even in these things because God causes all things to work together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)  Yes, even tragedy.  Yet not so for those who have refused to hear His voice, to those that refuse to bow their knee to His sovereignty.

I remembered the call from my friend and former neighbor when he told me his 15 year old son was an instant!  I considered the days I would see our children "digging tunnels to China" and teaching us how to slaughter a chicken.  I saw his boyish face, his sweet smile. Gone.  Was he really gone? Sick and taken by cancer in just two short weeks and buried at 15?  I see my brothers as we each picked up a shovel in turn and covered that casket with a few shovelfuls before relinquishing it to another. 

                Our life is a vapor

Tomorrow may never come.  Tomorrow you may lose your spouse.  Tomorrow you may lose your child.  Tomorrow you may meet your God.  Are you ready?

When you get in your car each day do you realize you are sitting in a steel missile?  Do you consider how your driving might change the course of dozens if not hundreds of people?  Do you thank the Lord each time you put it in park safely at your destination?

In an instant......change.  Permanent. Forever.  Lasting.

So yet again I ask, are you ready?  How are you living?  Do you live in light of your own mortality?  Do I live in light that all I know could be gone in a moment?

                You turn man back into dust
         And say, “Return, O children of men.”
                For a thousand years in Your sight
         Are like yesterday when it passes by,
         Or as a watch in the night.
               You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
         In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
               In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
         Toward evening it fades and withers away. ~ Psalm 90:3–6

But the thoughts continued as I watched old Chuck fight to survive and go a little nuts talking to his only friend, Wilson.  I considered when I was building custom homes.  Faces of two men and their families flooded my mind.  One was a young man, in his late 30's.  One fateful step off a scaffolding led to his paraplegia.  It was somewhat tortuous pulling up to his home for 6 months, while we modified it to ADA standards, and seeing his kayak in the yard.  A kayak he and his 8 year old son would never use again. I envisioned the second man, his face weathered and beaten.  He was in his 50's with a teenage son and daughter along with his wife.  A terrible mishap that changed their lives.  Scaffolding collapsed on his job site and down he and his men went, others to their death, him to being a quadriplegic.  The hard, bitter pill of being dependent upon his young son for the simple things. The things most of us take for granted every day.

         As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
         Or if due to strength, eighty years,
         Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
         For soon it is gone and we fly away. ~ Psalm 90:10.

So whether a life change takes you into eternity or changes the course of your life, are you ready?  Are you living in light of your own frailty?  Your own mortality?  Are you dependent upon God, the Lord Jesus Christ for everything? Are you grateful for His care over you?  His grace?  Have you bowed your knee and confessed Jesus as Lord?  If you have not, will you?  Eternity hangs in the balance.

Because after all, our life is but a vapor.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

You're Doing It Wrong

THEOLOGY. What’s the first thought that comes to your mind? Is it boredom? Perhaps a few examples of division through doctrine? Then again, maybe your first thought was passion. Where does theology rank in your life’s desires? For far too many, it’s simply a word which never even comes to the surface. Many Christians choose to leave it in the background while focusing on simply loving Jesus. Is this an acceptable norm or is there a hidden danger? I would dare say the latter. My reasoning isn’t overly complicated. If you don’t understand the God of the Bible, along with His beautifully righteous attributes, how can we ever hope to properly worship Him? 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” As a living example, Scripture speaks of the Bereans who examined the Scriptures daily to see if the teachings they had heard were true (Acts 17:11).

It seems as if those who choose to stand for the truth are met with the bitter distaste of the surrounding crowd. Sadly, this crowd can oftentimes involve more self-proclaimed Christians than unbelievers. It almost seems as if the
mantra of the modern church should be “To love is divine. To doctrine is to divide.” Why are so many avidly against the thought of having a proper theological perspective? Are they really against the notion of knowing Scripture? I’m convinced this isn’t necessarily the case. I believe there are many well-meaning Christians out there who just don’t take well to controversy. Should we crucify them for it? Absolutely not! Just as not all take well to stress in the workplace, not all take well to heated discussions and standing in the face of error. One need look no further than Aaron in Exodus 32. Moses had entrusted the camp unto Aaron and, while Moses was gone, he built a golden calf. In verse 22, we see Aaron readily admitting the act was evil. I’m convinced that he knew exactly what he was doing but that he did it anyway due to buckling under the pressure of having the entire camp coming down on him. For another example, we can look to Peter. He denied Christ three times out of fear. Scripture is filled with examples of men who have caved under pressure. Just as it happened then, it continues today. I don’t believe everyone has the innate ability to stand tall under pressure or even the threat that it may come.

Just as there are those who try to avoid the stress of potential arguments, there are also those who simply do not agree with contention. With all the disagreements that abound in any given topic known to man, why add even more? Can’t we just love Jesus, grow in our relationship with him, and let our
actions speak louder than our words? Won’t bickering among the brethren just lead to unbelievers thinking we don’t know what we’re talking about? While these are very valid points, I think they miss the bigger picture. It’s true that there are many pointless debates that would probably serve well as private discussions rather than public spectacles. However, this doesn’t mean that all disagreements should remain silent. Imagine if Martin Luther had chosen to forgo nailing his 95 Thesis to the door of Wittenberg. Certainly there are times to discuss and discuss loudly if need be. I’m convinced that, if the topic at hand is one that could depreciate Christ, it deserves to be addressed. That being said, we must remain aware of how we are conducting ourselves in the presence of believers and unbelievers alike. The truth divides but we don’t need to let our pride amplify this fact. There’s a difference between standing firm in the truth and being stubborn as a mule.

Going back to the beginning, it is vital that we have a proper understanding of God. This can only be accomplished by reading the Scriptures. Once we have this knowledge, we have a responsibility to take care of it (2 Timothy 2:15). Sometimes, this will be in the form of facing opposition. Other times, it will be in the form of worship. Still other times, it may present itself in yet another manner. There are a multitude of potential ways we could be presented with an opportunity to guard the truth. This is why we must be ready at all times (2 Timothy 4:2).

So the latest debates on abortion may not be your thing. Maybe you don’t really care about the difference between credobaptist vs. paedobaptist or amillennialism, premillennialism, & postmillennialism. While all of these can be wonderful discussions to partake in, they are all worthless if God’s attributes and His redeeming gospel are left out. When I say theology, it is my hope that your first thoughts be of God’s sovereignty, love, righteousness, glory, etc. Out of this knowledge, all else will come in time. Out of this knowledge, one can build their very foundation as a Christian. If we don’t know God, we can never know God’s will for our lives. So, how do we know God? It’s easy! He’s given us His revealed Word so that we may understand that which was previously a mystery (Ephesians 3:4). If your primary motive for studying theology is to win the argument, know it all, or anything other than to better worship your Father in Heaven above, you’re doing it wrong.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Darkness Rescued

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~ Col 1:13–14

The believer in Christ has been rescued, delivered by Another.  It is not our own hand that reaches up as if drowning in a sea and grabbing a life preserver.  No, that is not the case at all.  We are mere floating corpses bobbing in the sea until a Redeemer comes and draws us out and rescues us.

We must clearly see that it says He rescues us.  There is no room for "I helped Him by reaching up." The tense of the original language clearly conveys the fact that the subject (He) of the verb (rescued) is acting for his own benefit.  Go ahead, dig deeper than our weak English language and see for yourself that the Greek is in the middle voice. 

And what did He rescue us from?  The domain of darkness.  Not only that, He (again keep focus here), He transferred us into His kingdom.  A domain is where something or someone rules, like a lion or a king.  Who rules the darkness?  What a thought that the one who has placed his faith in the work of Christ has been removed from that power and transferred to a kingdom where he now has power to not sin.  Where he can posses a power to be a slave of righteousness.
Beloved, we can rest assured that we have this redemption.  The fact is that He saved us not on the basis of deeds we have done in righteousness but according to His mercy. (Titus 3:5)

Submitting to and resting upon such grand truths properly exalts our Savior and gives us peace, knowing that He not only has the power to rescue but to keep!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Litmus Test For Dummies

Last night, I had a vivid dream. I was helping a man fix his car on the side of the road when I accidentally kicked a bolt. I watched as it fell over the side of the cliff into a deep chasm. Feeling responsible, I began my journey of descent into the nether regions of the Earth. Upon reaching the bottom, I immediately found what I was searching for, picked it up, and inspected it. It was as if I had found a buried treasure. I began my journey back when I realized I was stuck. The walls of the chasm were suddenly like soft sand and were collapsing with every touch as I desperately struggled to escape. I simply couldn’t find my way out. That was when the Lord spoke to me. He said, “Travis, fear not for I am with you. You are one of My own and have more power than you realize. Do not be afraid of what this world has in store for you. I have empowered you, through faith, to overcome all battles. You will lead many in My name. The soft sand represents the sinking world around you but take notice that you are untouched. As long as you claim My name, I will bless you and you will be prosperous. This bolt represents the treasures I have promised you. Do not throw them away. Seek them out and they will be yours. I, the Lord, have spoken.”

Okay, so all that didn’t really happen. In fact, everything after finding the bolt and seeing sandy walls was a fabrication. However, what if I had continued this story and ended it with the claim that it was actually revelation from the Lord to be passed on to the Church? Could you say anything to stop me? Could you say anything that might discredit my experience? After all, isn’t experience enough to determine what is true and what is not?

Unfortunately, there are many professing believers today who make such claims. No, they may not all be claiming new revelation but they are certainly claiming experience to be a valid litmus test. After all, if one experiences it, who are we to tell them they are wrong? If I ate at McDonald’s and another person said I didn’t, I would certainly stand by my initial claim that I did. I
experienced it. I was there. I ate the burger and drank to soda, too. Don’t you dare tell me my experience was invalid and false. Such an idea is preposterous! While it may make sense on the surface, upon using a little discernment and a lot of prayer, one can easily see through the haze.

In John 16:12-13, we see Christ telling us how he has more to say. He continues by revealing that he will be sending the Spirit to us to relay these messages. The Spirit will not speak on his own initiative but will only be relaying what Christ has willed that we should hear. This was in the form of the Scriptures we hold in our hands today. Most theologians are in full agreement that the canon of Scripture is closed. Since this occurrence, there has been no new revelation. The Spirit speaks all things in accordance with the Scriptures. If the Spirit is giving new revelation, should we not add it to the Scripture so that it may be shared with all? However, how can we do this if the canon is closed? This presents quite the predicament. Either the Spirit is giving new revelation that is not being added to Scripture or we have a prime example of misguided souls steering Christians into the depths of Hell. We have been warned that false teachers have crept into our midst unnoticed (Jude 4). Well, I am here to say to you that I have taken notice and I implore you to take notice as well.

We live in an era where the mysterious has a certain allure to it. It’s like a top selling fiction novel on steroids. Look no further than the plethora of ghost hunting shows on TV. There is no proof yet many simply want to believe that there is something mysterious out there. Even if they don’t believe, many viewers consider themselves “open but cautious.” This same term is used among many Christians when referring to the Charismatic Movement. Instead of looking to see what the Scriptures have to say, they hold to the possibility that the mysterious may very well be true and valid. Despite the scandalous
origins of the movement, the false prophesies that have accompanied it over the years, the countless scams, and more evils than one can possibly cover in a blog post, there are still those who remain “open but cautious.” Why?!?!? Why are we so hesitant to condemn such claims? Why do we shy away from nixing it at the source? Why do we remain open but cautious of doctrines that have been the demise of so many? It has been calculated that 90% of those who follow the Charismatic Movement also adhere to the Prosperity gospel. This is a teaching that God wants us to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. It claims that, if only one has enough faith, he can overcome any illness and will never see poverty. Friends, that is not the gospel at all. It only takes away from the exaltation of Christ by shifting the focus to the glorification of self. Instead of asking how we can better magnify Christ, it leaves us asking why we are suffering from the common cold. Did we not have enough faith? Maybe this God thing isn’t true after all. Do you see how giving even a hint of credibility to such a movement is a slippery slope? Every time I hear open but cautious, I can’t help but think wishy-washy and foolish.

Going back to the initial story of my supposed dream, I wish I could say it was only limited to this post. Sadly, I only regurgitated the claims of many prosperity teachers today. It sounds enticing. It sounds mysterious. It sounds like something we might want to experience for ourselves. This is the exact reason why people such as John Piper have prayed that God would give them the “toy” of tongues. It’s sad when such a solid theologian has been tarnished by a strong desire for the false. In his open but cautious state, he has fallen prey to the wolves, to those unnoticed. If such a thing can happen to him, how much more can it happen to one who isn’t nearly as knowledgeable in the Word of God?

We must stand firm in the Word. We need to rise up as a band of brothers and sisters. We need to defend the truth and give no credibility to such silly notions as prosperity teaching, tongues, healing, and new revelation. Never let experience be the litmus test for truth. If you currently stand by this method, you have a problem. For instance, Catholics and Mormons also believe their experiences with the gifts prove them to be a valid work of the Spirit. You must either accept these heretics as Christians moved by the Spirit or else you are compelled to openly admit yours may be an equal counterfeit that cannot be solidified through experience. As another example, there are numerous accounts of people supposedly going to Heaven and back (Heaven Is For Real, 90 Minutes In Heaven, etc). If you believe these accounts based solely on the claimed experiences of others, I ask you to ponder the following questions:

1) Why is each story different? Is Heaven a real place or is it just whatever each person wants it to be?

2) Why is Christ not the forefront of every vision/trip? It’s always about the awesome sights and rarely about exalting Christ.

3) Why are they permitted to speak of it when even Paul was not?

Until such inconsistencies and dilemmas can be resolved (and I firmly believe they cannot be), it is far too dangerous and even foolish to continue with such methods. Where is the discernment? What is the standard used to determine truth from error? The answer is right in front of us! We need to search the Scriptures daily to prove the things which are true (Acts 17:11). On the flip side, we need to be ready to loudly condemn the error set before us. Be prepared to not only wield the Word in doctrine but also in reproof and correction (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture speaks loudly. Take heed and listen!
~Travis W. Rogers

Saturday, March 1, 2014

It Is Not Good...

ALONE. Have you ever felt completely and utterly alone? I don’t mean the occasional feeling of missing a loved one or even the feeling of being ostracized for an opinion. I’m referring to the deepest sense of the word. Have you ever felt as if you had nobody to turn to, nobody to love you, and nobody who cared about you? I can honestly say I haven’t ever felt this deep feeling of loneliness yet I know there are many who have. It is discouraging to me whenever I hear of someone who feels this way. As mankind, God has decreed that it is not good that we be alone (Genesis 2:18). As saddening as it may be to me, I can only imagine how depressing and devastating it must be in the life of the one who has lost all hope of human connection. Sadly, we all too often see the tangible results of such thoughts and feelings. While the holidays are meant to be a time of reconciliation and family togetherness, for many, it is a time of hopelessness. Instead of smiles and laughs, we read of suicides and mourning loved ones who just couldn’t be seen through the fog of despair.

I recently had an encounter with a random stranger. He confided in me that he had renounced the Christian faith. His reasons were plenty but one in particular stood out to me. He felt like God had abandoned him. In a time of extreme struggle and hardship, he reached out to God but felt as if God had not reached out in return. To him, this was the final straw. How could a loving God leave a man in such turmoil? How could a kind God sit back and watch as he suffered the indignities of cruel humanity? How could the Father not respond to His child when he was pleading for help? At this moment, he had lost all hope in man and had reconciled in his mind that God was nothing more than the imaginary hope that man wanted Him to be. He was now hopeless. He had nobody.

How do we respond to such confessions? Do we treat them as any other criticism of the Christian faith? Do we bust out our Bibles and begin the Scripture recitations? Ashamedly, this is how many self-proclaimed Christians behave when faced with similar situations. There is a time and a place for standing firm in the Scriptures at all costs but there is always time to let the Scriptures speak in love. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to share with him God’s redemptive story beginning in Genesis all the way through Revelation. I shared how God had created mankind perfect and upright in His image (Genesis 1). I explained how mankind fell to the temptations of Satan and how, as a result, mankind was cursed (Genesis 3). I shed light on some practical examples and how sin shows itself in our daily lives. I explained how we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are worthy of death (Romans 6:23). We looked at Ephesians 2:1 telling us we are dead in our trespasses and sins. He had shared with me how he had done so much for his fellow man only to be greeted with thanklessness in return. This prompted a review of Isaiah 64:6 where he states that even our greatest works are as filthy rags. Sin is nothing more than a failure to put God at the center of all things. Regardless of what we may deem good, it will always be in the relative sense. Unless God is at the center, it will always be as foul as filthy, blood-stained rags. Nothing we can ever dream of doing will ever earn God’s favor nor should we expect it to net us something in return. Even if our entire life should reflect the portion where Job suffered worst, it would only be a small portion of what we actually deserve for our rebellion against God Almighty.

My goal in all of this was to show how, as mankind, we are depraved and sinful beings. We have a sense of entitlement when, in reality, we deserve nothing. Yet, as sinful beings worthy of nothing, God has decreed that it is not good for man to be alone. Indeed, even when we have nothing, we know that God does not want us to feel alone. I could’ve left our discussion at that but then I’d be no better than those fierce Christians I spoke of earlier. Where would my demonstration of Christ-like love be? After all, he was already feeling the bitterness of being alone. Should I kick him while he’s down and tell him he deserves nothing due to his sinfulness? No, there was too much left to the story to leave it at that. I wanted to make it abundantly clear that God has promised never to leave nor forsake His own (Hebrews 13:5). If we have been reconciled to the Father through Christ the Son (2 Corinthians 5:18), He will always be with us. Though we may not always feel His presence, we can be assured He is there with us. Just as He has declared it is not good for man to be alone, He has also declared we will always have communion with Him through the Son.

Of course, none of this would be complete without tying it into Christ’s redemptive work. I wanted to highlight the fact that Christ, God in the flesh, came to this Earth with a specific purpose. He lived a sinless life only to be met with contempt. He demonstrated love in its perfection only to be met with hate, mockery, and an excruciating death. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). Hanging on that cross, he was cursed by God (Galatians 3:13) so that we would not be. Christ knew communion with God better than any of us could ever imagine. He was God! He had the most intimate of relationships with the Father. Yet, this innocent man came of his own accord to give himself up as the ultimate sacrifice to appease the wrath of God and reconcile all of His own. That moment when Christ became sin (note, not a sinner), he experienced perhaps the greatest agony of all. No, it was not the nails piercing his skin nor was it the scourged flesh hanging off his body. Nor was it the salted sweat dripping into his wounds. In the midst of such torment, Christ had to endure the fact that God the Father turned His back on His Son (Matthew 27:46). This was the most unimaginable sorrow any man had ever felt. Christ had the feeling of absolute loneliness on that cross. His own Father had forsaken him. It had to be this way if Christ were to accomplish that which he came to perform.

As alone as a person may feel, it will never come close to what Christ had to endure. God Himself has assured us of this. Friends, if you or someone you know ever feels totally alone, I encourage you to remember that God is with you. Even if your heart tells you there is nobody there, please understand that the heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Though the Christian has been set free from the shackles of sin, there is still a very real battle against the flesh. If you are a Christian, I implore you to pray harder than ever before and to not lose hope that God is by your side. Whether or not you feel He is answering your prayers, they will be answered in His perfect time and we need to place our unwavering trust in the God who created the universe. Trust that the God who forsook His Son has promised never to leave nor forsake us. This should be an encouragement of the utmost degree. If you are not a Christian, it is my prayer that you would look to God, cast all of your burdens upon Him, show yourself before Him, and trust in the miraculous gift of Christ. Only then will you truly understand the hope that is found within (1 Peter 3:15). Friend, you do not have to be alone.

~Travis W. Rogers